Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 27/9/2005Y'all know the standard marketing acronym EMEA by now — the curiousmonster born of a belief by Americans that Europe, the Middle East andAfrica are in some way bound together in an homogenous whole. (Yes,these are the same Americans who get sniffy if you make Arkansas rhymewith Kansas or vice-versa).

Tuesday 27/9/2005

Y'all know the standard marketing acronym EMEA by now — the curious monster born of a belief by Americans that Europe, the Middle East and Africa are in some way bound together in an homogenous whole. (Yes, these are the same Americans who get sniffy if you make Arkansas rhyme with Kansas or vice-versa). However, the lie is given by the guaranteed fact that any major EMEA event will be held not in ME or A — heaven help us, not in A — but in E. Preferably as far away from the realities of ME and A as possible.

And so, Dell's EMEA press event today tees off in the genteel and extraordinarily agreeable surroundings of the Turnberry hotel on the Ayrshire coast — think picturesque rocky islands, Championship golf course, butch men in kilts. Drawn by the scent of heather and peat, preferably with a strong toffee finish, ZDNet's Reviews supremo Charles McLellan despatches himself there on your behalf to check out Dell's new tech goodies.

If only it were that simple. The invite sets the tone — "wear outdoor clothes on the first day" — for no good reason except that it's the done thing, Activities are to be undertaken. 4x4 vehicles must be driven off-road, quad-bikes piloted through muddy ravines, clay pigeons blasted from the air, quivers-full of arrows dispatched and — this is Scotland remember – a 'bothy' built from sticks and sheeting, and bagpipes wrestled into submission.

You may suspect that for all their muscular prose, your average tech journalist is more at home behind a keyboard or in front of a bar than battling the Scottish elements. So it proves. One hack fails to make the event at all due to a nasty attack of gout; another mistakes the jar of brightly coloured ear-plugs (for the shooting) for sweets and pronounces them "a bit rubbery"; while yet another manages to prang himself in the foot with bow and arrow. Our own hero — as his name suggests — wouldn't look out of place striding firmly along a burn clutching a gnarled stick, but even he is caught out. During one mishap, a clueless hack peppers the clay pigeon hut with a blast of ill-directed shot: "My goodness," shouts Charles towards the hut, "Are you all right in there?" "It's all right, sir" says the ghillie, "it's all done by remote control".

The whole thing resembles nothing so much as a Carry On montage scripted by the Python team, and by the end the PRs are smiling as much through stress-related psychosis as their natural jollity.

But the UK press pack comes triumphantly into its own, as ever, at the 19th hole, where challengers from all parts of E (oddly, few from ME or A) are beaten into submission in the small hours by a superb Anglo-Saxon display of synchronised elbow-work. What better way to prepare for the following day's-worth of 'death by PowerPoint'?